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HIV Rates Rising Among Young, Gay Black Men

New HIV infections in the United States have begun to stabilize within the past four years, with only 50,000 appearing each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. However, new data published in scientific journal PLoS ONE shows that the largest increases in HIV infections were among bisexual and homosexual African-American men.

“More than 30 years into the HIV epidemic, about 50,000 people in this country still become infected each year,”  CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told CNN. “Not only do men who have sex with men continue to account for most new infections, young gay and bisexual men are the only group in which infections are increasing, and this increase is particularly concerning among young African American [homosexuals].”

The data was analyzed from the period between 2006 and 2009. The CDC estimates that homosexual men make up 2 percent of the nation’s population, but 61 percent of 2009’s new infections. The highest infection rates and increases were found for young men between the ages of 13 and 29.

“The agency says while young [homosexuals] of all ethnic backgrounds have been hit hard, young blacks were the only group to see significant increases over the four-year period. Infection rates among this population jumped 48% during that time,” CNN reports.

Reasons for the increase have yet to be determined and remain unclear. Homosexual men usually have fewer sexual partners and are less likely to do IV drugs or engage in anal intercourse with other gay men. However, data suggests several possibilities for the trend, one of the man one being that homosexual men are not aware of their HIV status and that the stigma that exists within the black community and limited health care access inhibits people from attaining services to know their status or treat infections.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said. “We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease.”

Phill Wilson, founder & chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute, told CNN that stalled prevention efforts may play a key role in the increasing health issue among young men of color.

“What these numbers tell us is we are not going to be successful in driving down new infections until and unless we invest in those populations most at risk, and in America today those populations are black Americans, men who have sex with men of all races and especially young, black men who have sex with men,” Wilson said. “It is outrageous that over the last three years reported in this data, since 2006-2009, we see a 48% increase in new cases among young black men who have sex with men age 13-29. We have to build the infrastructure and the capacity in these communities to respond to this epidemic in an appropriate manner.”

The agency is currently working on a number of intervention methods to help alter the course of the population.

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